This past week I managed to actually get out to the theatre to catch a flick. And the bonus was I got to attend with Alison, which we haven’t seen a movie together since probably Interstellar at the Cinesphere with Christopher Nolan in attendance. So after we had both seen positive reports, it was decided to go see the new film from the director of Hereditary (Ari Aster). To say that Mr Aster prefers unconventional stories would be an understatement. He wrote this as well as directing. Both Alison and I enjoyed Heriditary and ventured out to see Midsommar (spelling as per the film). I had read it was a “relationship film” and more “psychological thriller” than a “horror” movie. Nowhere had I read anything about it having comedic elements, but more on that later.
The premise is that of a young American couple in their mid 20s, I would guess, where the relationship has had some challenges. He and his three buddies decide to join another friend and head to a “retreat” in Sweden. The Swedish friend encourages the friends to all come, and eventually the somewhat outcast girlfriend (played ably by Florence Pugh) in the couple comes along with the boys. The boyfriend is named Christian and played by Jack Reynor. One of the buddies in the film, is the young red-haired guy from Meet the Millers (Wil Poulter) who had an unfortunate accident with a tarantula. He is a source of amusement, time and again. The group flies out to Sweden and then to a remote area with plenty of people milling about in white cotton outfits. The natives move about doing chores and other activities that you would see, or expect to see, in Amish communities. It is at this stage that me, as a person, and entering this commune I would have red flags waving before my eyes and bells ringing in my head. It’s is just “off”. The commune is segregated out by age, according to stages of life, as it is explained. Elders, children and middle age people all eat together, perform traditional tasks and keep busy. The middle age inhabitants all live together in a large barn with unusual and strange paintings on the walls and ceilings. If you study the pictures at all, more bells and whistles would be going off.
Then a ceremony happens on Day 2. Things transpire that I won’t detail where had there not been an uneasiness for a visitor on Day 1, then you would expect to be some after this day. Some of this is reminiscent of Get Out, and other films like The Village or even Rosemary’s Baby. A group of outsiders with a unique and different perspective on life, has their habits and ceremonies and ways-of-life seen by outsiders. They are forthright, in a way, about their traditions when asked directly, but they kind of shrug them off and smile making it seem like quite an everyday attitude, shared by all these people in white. There are some material omissions.
I will say that there are various moments throughout where the full-theatre audience I sat among laughed when I don’t think that it was planned or intended. I myself turned to Alison a few times and we laughed. There is a scene near the end when much of the crowd was laughing at what was being shown, and from a North American mentality I can see why. It was just so outside our norms that we were put in the middle of a strange and bizarre ceremony. Traditions, symbols, customs and social norms are very time sensitive and location-centric. Perhaps this is one of many messages.
In the end, this isn’t a film that I can recommend despite the 4 star review on Roger Ebert’s website. I liken this more to an Under the Skin or The Lobster where the viewer has to push aside the real as we perceive it, and take in the symbolism or foreign ideologies that to these people are accepted and very natural. We don’t see eye to eye, but it doesn’t make them any less valid or held with less conviction. Clearly this group is very dedicated to traditions and doesn’t put a North American filter on what they are doing. I also cannot recommend this as an option for possible endings to a relationship should they occur. ‘Nuf said….
I had asked Alison to send along her thoughts and I will post them when I get them.